1/15/2009

REVIEW: CHE: A Graphic Biography by Spain Rodriguez

Here's the review I did of Spain Rodriguez's CHE: A Graphic Biography for Maximum Rocknroll (issue #309, February 2009).

[UNEDITED]

CHE: A Graphic Biography
Spain Rodriguez
120 pages - $17
Verso Books
http://versobooks.com/

Spain Rodriguez is a radical-comic-artist-turned-radical-historian in his latest book, CHE: A Graphic Biography. Manuel "Spain" Rodriguez teamed up with author and lecturer Paul Buhle to illustrate the life and adventures of Ernesto "Che" Guevara in this entertaining and painstaking comic work. Spain, the legendary underground comic artist, is a logical candidate for this project, as his history is rooted in radical political comics. Graphically, the first artist I thought of while viewing Rodriguez's work was R. Crumb. Another logical connection: R. Crumb was the founding member of Zap Comix, and a fellow founder of the underground comics movement of the 1960's, both of which Spain was also an integral part.


As a biography, CHE is really exciting, as not only does the reader get an in-depth look at Latin American politics and insurgency, but a thrilling illustration of the unique and tumultuous life of Ernesto "Che" Guevara. Paul Buhle is a frequent collaborator with graphic artists in similar historical pieces (Dangerous Woman: The Graphic Biography of Emma Goldman, with Sharon Rudahl and Alice Wexler; Wobblies!: A Graphic History of the Industrial Workers of the World with Nicole Schulman; and Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History with Harvey Pekar and Gary Dumm, to name a few). His contribution is welcome, as CHE serves as both an intimate portrait of what shaped Che Guevara into the rebel icon he would become, as well as a bit of a primer on the unrest in Latin America at that time. The reader follows Che through his motorcycle journey with friend Alberto Granado, made famous by The Motorycle Diaries, through countless rebel attacks as comrade and commander under Fidel Castro, and Che's rise as a Cuban leader.

CHE: A Graphic Biography strikes me as a great resource for folks who are familiar with Che as an icon, but are not familiar with his history in the Latin American Marxist movement. While the narrative of Che's life is speckled with a plethora of well-researched details, the reader can not help but engage with both the textual and visual material. The life of Che, and the happenings of Latin American politics in his time, are undoubtedly captivating. Both intriguing and informative, Che: A Graphic Biography is a unique and entertaining approach to Che Guevara's prominent legacy.

-- Kate Wadkins